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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Israel Unrepentant over new building

Mahmoud Abbas

Britain, France, Spain, Sweden and Denmark all summoned their Israeli Ambassadors yesterday to protest about Israel's decision to build 3,000 new settlement units in East Jerusalem and in particular, the area known as E1 which could completely cut off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.

Britain's Minister for the Middle East Alistair Burt said "I set out the depth of the UK's concern about these decisions and I called on the Israeli government to reverse them" he said.  "The settlements plan in particular has the potential to alter the situation on the ground on a scale that threatens the viability of a two-state solution."

A White House spokesman said yesterday "The US opposes all unilateral actions, including West Bank settlement activity and housing construction in East Jerusalem, as they complicate efforts to resume direct, bilateral negotiations and risk prejudging the outcome of those negotiations - this includes building in the E1 area as this is particularly sensitive and construction there would be especially damaging to efforts to achieve a two-state solution."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to visit Germany this week and Chancellor Angela Merkel has made it clear that she is strongly opposed to Israel's hunger to build more settlements.

Philippe Lalliot, a spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry said yesterday "Settlement activity is illegal under international law, hurts the confidence necessary for a return to dialogue and constitutes an obstacle to a just peace founded on a two-state solution."

But Mr Netanyahu is unrepentant.  "We are building and we will continue to build in Jerusalem and in all areas that are on the map of the strategic  interests of the State of Israel" he said.

One Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity said "It's well known that Europe and Israel have a different approach on settlements. If European countries had behaved differently in their vote at the United Nations last week, we may have reacted differently."